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Fifty years of the Book Fair
Published in Al-Ahram Weekly on 10 - 01 - 2019

This year's Cairo International Book Fair (CIBF) is set to take the country by storm from 23 January to 5 February, with its wealth of political, literary, artistic, scientific, religious, heritage and history titles as well as family and children's activities that command huge numbers of visitors, Nevine Al-Aref reports.
This year, the event will be additionally special because it not only celebrates the CIBF's golden jubilee, but it is also being held in its new venue at Egypt's International Centre for Conferences and Fairs in the Al-Tagamoa district.
The newly established venue is better appointed than the older one at the Nasr City Fair Ground and consists of an area of 45,000 square metres divided into 723 pavilions.
Head of the General Egyptian Book Organisation (GEBO) that organises the Fair Haythem al-Hag said that this year the 50th CIBF would bring together 748 publishers and 525 book agencies from 35 Arab and foreign countries.
Some 86 publishing houses, among them 62 Egyptian and 24 Arab and foreign, would be participating in the Fair for the first time, he said. Each year the GEBO publishes more than 594 new book titles.
Al-Hag said that this year's Fair would witness 419 events in its different activities, including author and book meetings, symposia on creativity and youth, technical programmes, events on cinema and art, the cultural salon, and children's activities. Among the events are 144 musical and art performances, 600 book signings, eight workshops for fine art, theatre and creative writing, and 234 events for children.
Within the framework of the government's determination to bolster connections between the state and the country's youth, a section of the Fair will be dedicated to young people. There will also be lectures on citizenship, religious discourse, literature and criticism, and other topics.
Late Egyptian author Soheir al-Qalamawi and former minister of culture Sarwat Okasha are this year's personalities, owing to their efforts to set up the Fair in 1969 at its first venue in Gezira. The Arab League is the guest of honour to mark the fact that its home is in the heart of Cairo, said minister of culture Ines Abdel-Dayem.
Egypt was elected to preside over the Arab League Summit in 2019, and it will also host the 2019 Africa Cup of Nations, she said. The Fair would dedicate a hall for Africa and its cultures this year under the title “The Panorama of Africa,” she said, allowing African countries and personalities to introduce themselves through political, cultural and social seminars, exhibitions, and lectures.
She said that the Fair would also celebrate important events that coincide with the establishment of the Fair and have impacted on the political, cultural and historical level. They include the 1,050th anniversary of the foundation of Cairo, the centenary of the 1919 Revolution, the 150th anniversary of the Suez Canal, and the centennial of the literature of the Arab Diaspora.
Another hall has been dedicated to telling the story of the Fair through documentary materials and photographs showing the history of the CIBF and its different stages. The exhibition will show the Egyptian, Arab and foreign intellectuals, authors, poets and public figures who have participated in the Fair during its 50 years. Important authors such as sheikh Mohamed Abdu, Naguib Mahfouz, Taha Hussein, and Abdel-Rahman al-Sharqawi will also be celebrated.
The Fair will also celebrate those who had an early role in the establishment of the event, such as the those who travelled to Germany to inspect the Frankfurt Book Fair as a possible model for a fair in Cairo, those who designed its first posters, and those who headed its first press centre.
The Fair has many activities for children this year, including workshops on drawing and colouring, ceramics, the recycling of environmental waste, metalwork, and the manufacture of the puppets used in Al-Arajuz (traditional puppet) shows.
Workshops on traditional handicrafts will be organised along with others on story-telling, especially topics that concern folk heritage and Egyptian identity. There will also be events on music, dance, carpet-making, sailing, and flowers.
Unfortunately, the Souk al-Azbakiya pavilion will be absent from this year's Fair, with the sellers of second-hand books returning to their original venue at Al-Azbakiya in Downtown Cairo.
GETTING TO THE BOOK FAIR: The General Egyptian Book Organisation in collaboration with the Cairo Governorate and the General Transportation Authority have provided special buses to serve the Fair's clientele, laying on services to the Fair from Abdel-Moneim Riad Square in Tahrir, Saqr Qureish in Al-Haram, Al-Amireya, and Heliopolis.
Buses will be available every ten to 15 minutes, and many will be specially adapted to the needs of disabled passengers. GEBO has also provided special buses to the Fair for VIPs, journalists, and media figures.


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